Friday, September 11, 2009

Student Author to Discuss Book

Student author to discuss book

By KATIE SANDERS Saturday, September 12, 2009

The St. Augustine Record

Nancy Yi Fan's story is enough to make just about anyone question his or her middle school productivity.

In fifth grade, Fan penned "Swordbird," a fantasy story about a war between cardinals and blue jays, an instigating evil hawk, and the mystical hero Swordbird that can bring peace to the forest.
It wasn't supposed to be a New York Times best seller -- just a dream that she fleshed out in her spiral notebook.

When she ran out of pages, Fan typed up her story and e-mailed it to publishers.

She wanted advice. What she got was a book deal with HarperCollins Publishers.

Fan, now 16 and a high school junior living in Gainesville, will discuss her success as a teenage author during today's Florida Heritage Book Festival. She is the featured young adult fiction author among about 20 other writers, including former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.

"Swordbird," published in 2007, made Fan the youngest best-selling author in HarperCollins history. She translated the text into her native Chinese.

When Fan talks about the e-mail spree that led to her original deal, it's as if she is an adult, years removed her from sending the messages.

"I was a little kid then," she said. "I wanted professional advice on my writing. You can imagine my surprise, my delight, when 'Swordbird' was accepted for publication."

She published a prequel to the novel in 2008, called "Sword Quest," and is working on that story's sequel, "Sword Mountain."

About a year after her first fantasy book's publication, Fan's renown climbed even higher. She was named one of the world's smartest kids by one of its most influential women: Oprah Winfrey. Fan appeared on her show in May 2008.

After the recognition from O, everyone wanted a piece of her, said Jewell Kutzer, a member of the festival's author selection committee.

Kutzer vied for Fan's availability, too.

The festival committee is aiming to broaden its scope of authors this year to appeal to younger writers, she said.

Several students told Kutzer and authors during classroom visits last year that they had already crafted stories, and others wanted to write, too.

"I found there was interest in it but a lack of confidence in the ability to make it happen," she said.

Fan's faith in herself is uncommon among most children her age, Kuzter said. Not every student has the self-discipline, talent and, as she put it, "chutzpah" to make a popular novel as Fan did.
Hearing from a best-selling peer that young authors don't have to feel intimidated by experienced professionals is a good thing, she said.

Fan's lovebirds

Every good writer has a muse. Fan has three: Ever-sky, Pandora and Dippler.

They are her lovebirds, and Fan said she can sometimes "decode their chirps" for insight.

To Fan, birds signify all that is peaceful and diverse in the world. They have captivated her since her childhood in China, where she lived until she was 7.

"They're the most eloquent symbol of freedom," she said. The birds' struggles for peace and triumphing over evil

Fan's work is also inspired by Chinese martial arts.

For today's book discussion, she plans to bring along the sword she practices with during writing and homework breaks. Moving with the sword limbers her up and sends blood to her head, she said.

She used the sword during a Friday speech at St. Augustine High School, where she discussed her work, writing process and the importance of developing a hobby, she said.

Her hobby helps her describe the sword-fighting action in her books with authority and accuracy, she said. She sketches out the scenes before writing.

"When readers read what I wrote, the picture will again form in their minds," she said.

Preparing for Ivy League

At her own high school in Gainesville, Fan is gearing up for the SATs, balancing work from her International Baccalaureate program and thinking about college. Her sights are set on the Ivy League, where she plans to obtain degrees in biochemistry and comparative literature.

She doesn't always plan to write fantasy stories, as she is a broad reader.

She just finished "All Quiet on the Western Front," a 1929 war novel by Erich Maria Remarque recommended by her history teacher.

For now, she's sticking with the "Swordbird" series.

There's still plenty of time to write about "humans and other things," she said.

She considers it her mission to inspire fellow students to try something extraordinary.

"Sometimes something surprising will happen," she said.

If You Go

Nancy Fan's presentation will be at 2:15 p.m. today in the Gamache-Koger Theater of the Ringhaver Student Center at Flagler College.

Admission is free and open to the public.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

'Swordbird' writer's imagination soars

'Swordbird' writer's imagination soars

Nancy Yi Fan, 14, would love to wing her way to the Beijing Summer Olympics.

The Yak imagines her flying there like Swordbird, the mythical hero of her two popular novels, "Swordbird" and "Sword Quest."

Nancy loves being part of Chinese celebrations.
"In China, when you go places, everyone is always laughing and smiling," said Nancy, who lives in Florida with her parents.
"But my schedule is really busy. I don't know if I can make it. But I'm so proud and happy that Beijing is hosting the Olympics. Everyone is looking forward to that. Did you know that many kids in China are named after the Olympics?"
The Yak did not. In China, thousands of kids have been named Aoyun (Aw-YOON), which is Chinese for "Olympics," said Nancy.
"I'm excited about all the things they're building, especially the main stadium. It's nicknamed Bird's Nest because the outside steel structure has irregular crisscrossing like a bird's nest."
Birds definitely are Nancy's favorite animals. She has three pet birds, Crackleclaw, Kibbles and Plap. And guess what? "In the Chinese zodiac, there's only one bird, a rooster -- and I'm a rooster," said Nancy, who was born in 1993.
Nancy spent her early years in Beijing, in northern China, and two years on Hainan Island, in southern China, before moving to the United States at age 7.
In China, she liked to sprinkle breadcrumbs on her windowsill "because I enjoyed watching a line of ants come and carry them away," she wrote in an e-mail.
"One day, I was reading a picture book when I heard scuffling sounds near my open window. I turned and saw a little sparrow perched on the windowsill. It was eating the crumbs! I was so close that I could see the patterns of brown and white around its black eyes."
Later, she moved to upstate New York and explored the wildlife there.
"After school, I'd dump my backpack in my room and run outside. Fields of wild grass, chest high, grew on one slope of a hill. Their sweet scent was at times dizzying and I had to squint my eyes through all the dazzle of flowers.
"There were no words to express what I felt. Here it was just me and nature. It was as if nature had set up a special game for me, but I had to find out the rules myself. Sometimes it would be a quest to find the source of a stream. Other times it would be scavenging for blackberries or identifying birds. But most of the time, I sat under a tree, listening to them breathe softly, and pondering about fantasy stories."Nancy’s walks taught her “patience and calm” and “to try to find something extraordinary in everything that is mundane,” she said, adding:“Now, I often think back on those days of rambling in the forest for guidance and inspiration.”After finishing fifth grade — and the first draft of “Swordbird” — Nancy moved back to China. She stayed for two years.In Bejing, she polished her novel and sent it to an American editor after her finding her e-mail address online. “We didn’t even know she was trying to find a publisher until we received an international call from HarperCollins!” said her father, laughing.
Last fall, after translating “Swordbird” into Chinese, Nancy returned to China for a book tour. Her first stop was at a Beijing elementary school.“Because the student body there was half-Chinese and half-foreign, I presented in both Chinese and English,” she said. “For me, it was great to be back in Beijing after nearly half a year, and to be talking to Chinese kids. I just had to get a Beijing 2008 Olympics shirt and a sampling of Peking duck (delicious!) before I left for Shanghai.”In Shanghai, she saw “a magnetic levitation train whirl by floating on magnets, which was pretty cool,” and gave another talk at a high school.“All the students were clapping thunderously when I finished,” she said.But it hasn’t gone to her head. “She’s worked very hard,” said her father. “When she writes, she’s totally involved in her world. If you call her name, she will not answer. She is doing what she likes.”Yak fact: Peking duck is named for Peking, the old name for Beijing. It has three courses: first, the crispy duck skin, rolled in a pancake, then roasted meat followed by a broth made from the bones.

More on Nancy's writing
Like all kids, author Nancy Yi Fan loves movies. Her favorites are “Happy Feet” and “Ice Age.”“But I’m really more of a book person,” the 14-year-old author told the Yak recently.“I read lots of books. I go to the library even week and carry a stack back.”(Her favorite book is “Charlotte’s Web.)Like the Yak, Nancy reads for pleasure, but also to do research for her stories. She’s written two best-selling novels, “Swordbird” and “Swordquest,” both set in make-believe forests inhabited by birds that talk, drink acorn tea and sometimes have to fight evil invaders.“Swordquest,” the second book, was a prequel to her first. But Nancy may not be done writing about birds. She’s thinking about a third novel with some of the same characters.“It may be a sequel to “Sword Quest” but still a prequel — something set in the middle of “Swordquest” and “Swordbird,” time-wise, he said. “I guess by and by I’ll try to write about humans.”In yakking with her, the Yak realized he and Nancy have something else in common: they use music to write, but in different ways.“I like listening to classical music,” said Nancy. “It relaxes me. It’s easy to listen and write and the music has good rhythm. The rhythm gets into the words.”(The Yak hums softly when he writes. He didn’t even realize he was doing it until one day, a friend said: “You’re doing it again.” It’s hard to stop and it’s harmless, right? And the Yak agrees: It does help with rhythm.)Nancy also has a second writing aid: drawing.“I love drawing,” she said. “It’s like acting something out. I draw out scenes, and it helps me organize. What is the logic – near to far, up and down? Drawing helps make my thoughts flow.”For example, mapping the home territories of the various bird species in her books is a good way to figure out how they cold best escape if attacked. How far away do the attackers live? How might they be vulnerable to a counter-attack?Nancy draws inspiration from many sources, including her childhood in China and her nature adventures.“I’m inspired by the Chinese ghost stories my grandmother used to tell me and bits of Chinese culture,” she said.So she’s trying hard to hold onto that culture while she’s far away from home.“I think I brought all my Chinese textbooks with me,” said Nancy, who is in ninth grade.“I think it’s very important to keep my culture, to speak my language. I received a letter from Jackie Chan, the martial arts star. He said he was really happy, really glad to hear that I had kept my Chinese culture.”(Chan is a famou Chinese actor whose many Kung Fu movies are well-known in the United States and around the world.) Nancy said she spoke almost no English when she first moved to the United States at age seven.“I could say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ ’’ she said.But her inability to communicate had an upside.“She was lonely,” said her father. “Not being able to speak, she read a lot of books.”Now, she speaks and writes beautifully in English and it’s easy to make new friends.“Like now, if I’m speaking English, it’s very strange sometimes. I can think in English and Chinese. I can switch over to either side and I don’t have to do any translating. Right now, I’m learning some French.”In reading “Swordbird,” the Yak also thought he detected a hint of Native American influence — and he was right! Nancy said that before writing about it, she had learned about the life of the early Iroquois Indians, who were well-known to the British and French settlers. (The Iroquois Nation still exists today and has six Iroquois tribes, including the Mohawks and Seneca.)“I learned about the Great Spirit, which I thought was a good name for the Creator,” she said. “And they had a lot of animal tales.”When Nancy isn’t writing, her busy schedule includes keeping up with fan mail, practicing martial arts — a type of Kung Fu that uses swords — and studying for the SATs. For more about Nancy and her books, visit

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Oprah Show --- World's Smartest Kids (May 12, 2008)

When Nancy Yi Fan moved to the United States from Beijing, she was 7 years old and didn't speak a word of English. Determined to master the language, Nancy says she learned English by reading lots of books. Six years later, Nancy wasn't just a straight A student. At age 13, she became the youngest best-selling author in Harper Collins history. Nancy began writing her first fantasy novel, Swordbird, when she was 11 years old. "I love to read," she says. "Books were the fuel for me to start writing." In search of writing advice, Nancy e-mailed her manuscript to publishers she found online. A few weeks later, she says she received a surprising response—her book was accepted for publication. After hitting bookstore shelves, Swordbird flew to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. It's currently sold all over the world. "For all the other kids out there who want to pursue their dreams, follow your dreams," Nancy says. "Truly nothing is impossible."

Nancy's novels Swordbird and Sword Quest were put on Oprah's Books:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Report from Time for Kids

She's Two for Two
Nancy Yi Fan tells TFK about her latest book
By Claudia Atticot
May 6, 2008,28277,1737839,00.html

Nancy Yi Fan, 14, has done it again. She has written another novel. Her first book, Swordbird, flew into the Top 10 of the New York Times best-seller list last year. Sword Quest, her second book, also follows the adventures of Swordbird. This time, the action takes place hundreds of years earlier. Sword Quest hit stores in January. Now Nancy is hard at work on novel Number 3.
TFK:How did you come up with the ideas for your books?
NANCY: My first book, Swordbird came from a strange dream that I had about cardinals and blue jays at war, while Sword Quest, came from an untold story from Swordbird.

TFK:Sword Quest is prequel to your last book. Why a prequel?
NANCY: In Swordbird, the character Swordbird is a supernatural divinity that helps birds in need. In the story, I also created the Old Scripture, an ancient book that good birds turn to seek wisdom from. As a part of the book, there is the diary of Ewingerale, the woodpecker, who is a friend of Swordbird when Swordbird was still a mortal. While writing this I suddenly found myself interested in Swordbird's past. How did he become immortal? What happened to Ewingerale? I decided to write a new book all about it.

TFK:Without giving too much of the plot away, what is Sword Quest about?
NANCY: It's about how Wind-voice and his friends Ewingerale, the woodpecker scribe, Stormac, the myna warrior, and Fleydur, the musician eagle, go on a journey to stop the archaeopteryxes and find a real hero.

TFK:Writing and publishing a novel is a major accomplishment for any writer. How does it feel to have your second book out?
NANCY: I'm so excited! I hope readers will enjoy Sword Quest. I feel so lucky to have published two books now. My goal is to write better and better.

TFK:How do you come up with the names for your books?
NANCY: Swordbird is the symbol of peace and freedom in my first book. His name is simple yet special. That's why I decided to use it as a title. I originally titled my second book Quest because there were layers of different quests going on in the story. Later, I changed it to Sword Quest because the word "sword" symbolizes the power and authority the antagonists pursue, as well as the righteousness the heroes seek.

TFK:You have said that "birds are symbols of peace and freedom", how did you first become interested in them?
NANCY: I remember when I was five, I placed some breadcrumbs on my windowsill so I could see a bird up close. Then, two hours later, a cheery little sparrow flew over to perch there. He sang, flicked his wings, and ate. I almost laughed out loud with joy.

TFK:When you're not writing, what do you like to do?
NANCY: I like drawing, practicing martial arts, and kayaking. Sometimes, in a jolly mood, I read aloud what I've written so far to my pet birds. They chirp and seem to understand.

TFK:You own three lovebirds, how did you come up with their names?
NANCY: Ever-sky got his name because he is black, blue, and white. My yellow lovebird, Dyppler, warbles a tune that sounds like his name. Pandora is so called because, although she is the noisiest of my three birds, her liveliness renewed my hope and determination while I was in the middle of writing Sword Quest.

TFK:Who are some of the people who inspire you?
NANCY: Jackie Chan, Christopher Paolini, my family, friends, and teachers. They all inspire me to work harder toward high goals and realize that nothing is impossible. My pet birds inspire me too, of course, with their constant happiness.

TFK:Do you have plans to write more books? If so, will you continue the series?
NANCY: Right now, I'm working on my third book about the eagles of the Skythunder Mountains, who are mentioned in Sword Quest. Although it's a sequel to Sword Quest, it's still a prequel to my first book. I hope I can keep writing stories till the time line goes back up to the era of Swordbird. I find it fascinating to transform the legends told in Swordbird into real stories.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Talking With Nancy Yi Fan

Talking With Nancy Yi Fan
From Weeky Reader No. 1 Sept. 2007

Nancy Yi Fan moved to the United States from China when she was 7 years old. She was prompted to begin writing fiction by the September 11 attacks and by a dream she had about birds at war. This year, her first novel, SWORDBIRD, was published. WRITING caught up with Nancy to ask her about her literary inspiration and her tips for young writers.

WRITING: The events of Sept. 11, 2001, were the inspiration for SWORDBIRD. Can you tell us more about your inspiration?

Nancy Yi Fan: I visited and climbed up the Wolrd Trade Center early in the summer of 2001. Having been there personally, I was sad that so many people died on September 11. In school I had been learning about the American Revolution. I had a dream about birds that were fighting each other. When I woke up, I wanted to write a story about the birds in my dream, why they were fighting, and how they became friends again.

WRITING: What made you write an entire book, instead of a short story?

Nancy Yi Fan: I started out writing a short story but the characters begged to have their stories told, and SWORDBIRD got longer and longer. I had been scribbling merrily away in a thick notebook, when one day I flipped the page and found that there were no more! [...] It was a start of a long adventure.

WRITING: How did your book get published?

Nancy Yi Fan: It's really a story of pure luck. Before I finished writing SWORDBIRD, I knew I needed a list of e-mails of people at publishing houses. I knew that having contacts would make me feel more certain about the book's future. I looked everywhere: books, magazines, on the Web. I wrote all the information down in a notebook. After I finished the first complete draft of SWORDBIRD, I took out the notebook again, took a deep breath, and sent my draft to all the e-mail contacts, which, by chance, included Jane Friedman, the CEO of HarperCollins Publishers.

WRITING: What advice do you have for students your age who want to write?

Nancy Yi Fan: I would tell them, "You've set our goal. You have the determination. Go for it." There's nothing to lose. Everybody's writing is unique, and someone is bound to like your writing.

WRITING: What advice do you have for students your age who hate to write?

Nancy Yi Fan: Everyone can write; everyone has something to say. Writing is just about letting something you really care about flow on paper. Keep the rules and expectations of your assignment somewhere in your mind as you write, but don't let them limit or discourage you; let what you write fit into the rules, and tell yourself that once the flow naturally ends, you can fix and change all you want. Of course, it helps if you don't wait until the last minute to start your writing assignment. I think my writing tips can also help students who don't feel confident about their writing. Writing is not hard. If you write from your heart, you will succeed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

From (4/9/08)

There's much that might interest and inspire young writers at the Nancy Yi Fan website. Last year, at age 14, HarperCollins published Fan's first fantasy novel "Swordbird," which reached the New York Times childrens' bestseller list. Her new book "Sword Quest" is a prequel, as she explains in an interesting podcast that students will enjoy. You'll find a link to the podcast on Fan's website, along with lots of other interesting material, from video interviews (Martha Stewart, Today Show) to Fan's tips for middle school writers. There's even a Halloween story she wrote in fifth grade. In the Young Writers' Chatroom, kids can post reviews of Fan's books, talk about their own writing ideas, and jump to a blog she kept during her recent US book tour. Also see this story about Fan on Jackie Chan's website: Nancy arrived in America in 2000 speaking no English. "Who could imagine that only six years later she would become a published author -- in her second language!"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Birds Convey a Teen Writer's Message of Peace to the World

Birds Convey a Teen Writer's Message of Peace to the World

By Faiza Elmasry
Washington, DC
21 February 2008

Voice of America
Elmasry report voiced by F. Lapidus - Download (MP3)

Nancy Yi Fan is a fairly typical American teenager who loves birds, martial arts and writing. But she didn't learn English until she was seven and her family immigrated to the United States from China. Just a few years later, she wrote a book in English. Her first novel, Swordbird, became a best-seller. Faiza Elmasry tells us more about the young author, who has just published her second novel.

Nancy Yi Fan's family moved to the United States just a few months before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. One night shortly afterwards, she dreamed about a giant white bird trying to make peace among warring flocks of birds in a forest.

"When I woke up," she says, "I wanted to turn my dream into a story because I wanted to express the importance of peace and freedom."

It took her almost a year to finish her story, Swordbird.

"I went on line to look for e-mail addresses of people who worked in publishing houses," she recalls. "Then I e-mailed my manuscript off. I only hoped to receive advice on how to improve my writing, but you know, Swordbird got accepted for publication. I was lucky enough that one of the recipients was President Jane Friedman, CEO of Harper Collins [a major publishing house in the U.S.]."

Harper Collins CEO Jane Friedman remembers Yi Fan's e-mail. It was addressed: "Dear President Friedman."

"I started to read it, which is not something we usually do because we don't accept unagented manuscripts," Friedman recalls, "but I thought there was something here, really something here."

Something so special, says Friedman that she decided to give Nancy's story a chance.

"I sent it over to my children's division," she says. "They found it to be absolutely brilliant. We felt that we had a prodigy in our hands. We took on the book and the rest is history.

Nancy Yi Fan was 12 years old when Swordbird was published last year. Within weeks, it reached the top of the New York Times list of best-selling Children's Chapter Books.

Swordbird is a fantasy about warring birds. It shows how friendship and courage can overcome tyranny.

"Swordbird is about the cardinals and blue jays of Stone-Run Forest," Nancy says. "They have been tricked by an evil hawk named Turnatt. Once they realized the truth, they band together. They can't turn Turnatt away. So their last hope is to try to find the legendary Swordbird who is a hero, who helps others in need."

Recently, Yi Fan published her second novel, Sword Quest. A prequel to her first novel, it's set hundreds of years before Snowbird.

Yi Fan, who translated her first work into Chinese, says she finds inspiration in her cultural heritage.

"In Sword Quest, for example, I added a fortune teller who uses the yin and yang symbol and the fortune telling sticks to guide some of the characters to a destination," she says. "Also, the main antagonist in Sword Quest, Yin Soul, is a ghost. That's inspired by my grandmother's ghost stories about the spirits who stay in the crossroads and wait for people to cross the street. They try to get into your body."

Becoming a published author at such a young age, Yi Fan says, has affected her life in many ways.

"I think it trained me to think more logically," she says. "It helped my imagination and certainly tasted my determination, self-control and dedication. I discovered things like structure, preciseness of wording. Now when I write essays in school assignments, it's much easier for me."

Yi Fan says she writes to satisfy herself, entertain her readers, and more importantly, to convey her philosophy of life.

"I guess it could be expressed by Ewingerale, one of my characters," she says. "He sings a song in Sword Quest. It goes like this: 'Fate is wind, not a river. / The directions of wind can always change / But rivers shall flow the same. / No matter which way the wind shall blow / Dare to use your wings.'"

The youngest author ever published by Harper Collins hopes to continue writing. And Nancy Yi Fan says she will use her wings to go wherever her dreams take her.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nancy Yi Fan on Conner Calling Radio Program

Nancy Yi Fan talked about her new book Sword Quest
on Conner Calling Radio Program on Feb. 15, 2008

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dayton Daily News

At age 14, successful author pens new novel

By Charity Smalls
Staff Writer
Thursday, February 07, 2008

While most 12-year-olds were playing with their latest game system or hanging out at the mall, Nancy Yi Fan was writing a novel and learning sword play.
Fan, who brought the world the best-selling novel "Swordbird," is coming to Books & Co. at the Greene on Sunday. Now 14, she brings the story of Swordbird's origin in "Sword Quest."
The prequel "Sword Quest" explains the journey of Swordbird, the champion of justice and namesake of Fan's first book. In her new book, Swordbird is called Wind-voice and goes on a quest that takes him from slave to savior. "No one is born a hero," Fan said.
She said her character came from a dream she had about "cardinals, blue jays and a white bird."
Fan is now writing the third book in the series, a sequel to "Sword Quest.
"(The new manuscript is) about a family of eagles mentioned in 'Sword Quest'," she said.
When the straight-A student is not writing or doing homework, she likes to read, draw and practice martial arts with the sword she uses during presentations while on tour.
"Reading paved the way for my writing. Drawing is like writing. Both are ways to convey what you see," she said.
She first took up the sword to help make battle seems more realistic.
Thanks to the success of her first book, Fan said she has had incredible experiences. She received a letter from her hero, actor Jackie Chan, who wrote that she was "an inspiration to him." "I feel very grateful and fortunate," she said.
How to go
What: Book signing with children's author Nancy Yi Fan
Where: Books & Co. at the Greene, 4453 Walnut St., Beavercreek, OH
When: Feb. 10, 2008 at 2 p.m. Sunday
Information: Call (937) 429-2169

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gainesville Magazine

Fan Letters

By Alisson Clark
Gainesville Magazine Feb./Mar. 2008

Becoming a best-selling author at age 13 could be a mixed blessing for someone less grounded than Nancy Yi Fan. But Fan, whose novel “Swordbird” spent weeks on the New York Times Children’s Bestseller List in 2007, takes success in stride.
“At school, I’m just like anybody else,” says Fan, now 14 and celebrating the release of her second novel, the prequel “Sword Quest,” in January. She’s appeared on the The Today Show and Martha Stewart and gets fan mail from around the world, but the ninth-grader says the role of famous author is like an alter-ego.
“It’s like I have a double life, like Spiderman,” she laughs. “I have a light switch in my head that goes back and forth easily.”
Fan was born in China and had to learn English in a hurry when she moved to Syracuse, New York, with her parents at age 7. A few months after visiting New York City and standing on the observation deck of the World Trade Center, Fan watched the towers fall on 9/11. Her tumult of emotion after that day, along with a lifelong affinity for birds, led to a dream in which birds in old-fashioned clothing fought with swords clutched in their claws. When she awoke, she immediately began writing, and “Swordbird” was born.
Fan e-mailed her manuscript to several publishing houses, where it caught the eye of Jane Friedman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HarperCollins. The book hit shelves in February 2007 and was chosen for Al Roker’s kids’ book club.
“I’m so glad ‘Swordbird’ is inspiring to other kids,” Fan says. “Writing ‘Swordbird’ allowed me to express what I wanted to say in a way that’s beautiful and poetic but at the same time, fun. I want everyone who reads it to realize how precious peace is.”
The response from kids around the world has been tremendous: Fan spends time each day responding to reader mail and laments that she can’t personally respond to each one.
“I’ve had to look up the names of some of the countries on a map, “she says.
Fan’s parents, Harvey and Lora, help their daughter balance her writing with homework, martial arts (she took up swordplay to write better fight scenes) and time outdoors.
“My parents take me to Paynes Prairie so I’m not cooped up in front of a computer all the time,” Fan says. “Sometimes I’ll take my writing and sit in the shade and watch the birds. I love the herons stalking in the ponds and the clouds of white egrets floating over it.
Nancy says it was her grandfather, however, who first put her on the path to success. When she was born, he placed an English book under her head while she slept in the hopes that it would make her gifted with words.
“In a way, it was magical, “she says.
Last year, on a trip to China in support of “Swordbird,” she returned the favor, placing a copy of the novel under her 93-year-old grandfather’s pillow.
In the years to come, Fan hopes to go to Harvard and continue writing and practicing swordplay, but beyond that, “I’m still a kid: I can’t really imagine that far,” she says. Her focus is on finishing her freshman year of high school and her next novel, which takes place in the period between “Sword Quest” and “Swordbird”. Although she plans to keep writing, she hasn’t ruled out other fields.“Im’not sure what I’ll choose for a career, but whatever I choose, I know I will write for the rest of my life,” Fan says. “Writing is an integral part of who I am.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Time For Kids

Time for Kids
January 25, 2008 Vol. #13 Iss. #16

She's Two For Two

Nancy Yi Fan, 14, has done it again. She has written another novel. Her first book, Swordbird, flew into the Top 10 of the New York Times best-seller list last year. Sword Quest, her second book, also follows the adventures of Swordbird. This time, the action takes place hundreds of years earlier. "I found myself interested in Swordbird's past," Nancy told TFK. "So I decided to write a new book about it." Sword Quest hits stores on January 22. "I feel so lucky to have published two books," she says. Now Nancy is hard at work on novel Number 3.

A Written Call

SGV Tribune

Nancy Yi Fan, 14, of Florida, pulls out a real sword as she talks about her newly released book Sword Quest, a prequel to Swordbird, which she wrote when she was 10, during a book tour stop at Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop in La Verne on Jan. 27. Swordbird is a New York Times Children's Bestseller.

A written calling
Bestselling teen author visits La Verne bookstore
Article Launched: 01/29/2008 03:16:12 PM PST
(Sarah Reingewirtz / Staff)

Some people spend their whole lives searching for their calling, not knowing what would bring passion and a sense of accomplishment into their existence.
At 14, just a freshman in high school, Nancy Yi Fan has embraced the fact that she has discovered an art she both enjoys and is talented in. It's also something she hopes will enhance the lives of others.
"I'm definitely going to be writing for the rest of my life," the Florida resident said. "I love writing and I couldn't imagine not writing."
But it's not just a journal or the school paper where this passionate teen writes her amazing ideas. Her first book, "Swordbird," published in February 2007, skyrocketed to the top of the New York Times Children's Best Sellers list. Her latest novel, "Swordquest," which soared into bookshelves on Jan. 23, prompted Fan's week-long book tour across the country. It included her first trip to California.
La Verne was one of seven stops to promote "Swordquest," a prequel to Fan's first novel, "Swordbird." On Jan. 25, the teen spoke to a group of children at Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop.
"It's always great for kids to know that they don't have to be grown for them to be able to achieve," said Christa Wiese-Amend, event coordinator for Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop.
Fan herself never imagined this kind of success at such a young age. When she sent out her manuscript to every publisher she could contact, it wasn't her intent to try to get her writings published. She just wanted a little advice in order to improve her skills.
It was Jane Friedman, president/CEO of HarperCollins Children's Books, who gave this young author a chance.
Both fantasy novels are focused and inspired by Fan's love of birds. The straight-A student finds that looking out her window and observing some of these flighty creatures gets her wheels turning and her ideas flowing. She also has three pet lovebirds of her own — Ever-sky, Pandora, and Dippler.
"Swordquest," a story about an ordinary bird who becomes an extraordinary hero, focuses on fate as its main message.
"I think kids really could care about (this story). Everyone is always asking them what they will do in the future," Fan said. "I think if we really try hard we can change fate and you might find that you can publish two books when you're only 14."
Her entrance into the professional world of writing started when she awoke from a vivid dream in which birds were fighting in a war. When she got out of bed, she set the pen to her paper.
A year later, she was finished. It was written partly out of her concern for peace in this world.
"At that time I was living in upstate New York and I was concerned about peace," she said. "Without peace, we wouldn't have schools or learning or books."
Her novels present the sword as a symbol of peace instead of a symbol of death and darkness. This is similar to the thinking behind martial arts. Fan took up the activity last year in order to make the battle scenes in her writing more vivid and detailed.
But since her first book was published, Fan has gotten the attention of the media and a few celebrities.
Jackie Chan, one of her favorite actors because of his martial arts ability and humor, sent her a kind letter last year. He wrote that he was proud and inspired by her, partly because of the fact that she hadn't abandoned her culture.
Fan lived in China for the first seven years of her life. She continues speaking, reading and writing in her native language. She even translated her "Swordbird" into Chinese herself.
The young author also visited the "Today" show in New York in July 2007, where her book was chosen as one of four of Al Roker's Book Club for Kids. She also made an appearance on the Martha Stewart Show last Spring.
"I'm so glad to have a chance to share my story," she said. "I wouldn't ever have imagined I would be on the Martha Stewart Show."
For this driven young writer, all of this is just the beginning.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Soaring Success

American Girl Vol. 15, No. 6

The idea came in a dream. As Nancy F. slept, she imagined cardinals and blue jays struggling against an evil hawk. She also envisioned a huge white bird with a magical sword that could defeat the hawk and save the forest. When she awoke, the fifth-grader knew that she had a story to tell.
Nancy wrote her dream into a book, SWORDBIRD, which was published earlier this year. The story is scary in some parts and funny in others, but above all, "SWORDBIRD is a novel about peace and freedom and what happens when they are lost," says Nancy, now 14.
To get her book published, Nancy sent drafts to lots of different book companies. Despite her age, Nancy was confident in her story and in herself. "If a person had told me that there was no way for a kid to write and publish a book, I would answer with, 'Nothing is impossible.'"

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Adventures of Swordbird

Scholastic Kids

The Adventures of Swordbird
Teen author Nancy Yi Fan talks about her writing
By Emma Louise Huibregtse | August 6 , 2007

Teen author Nancy Yi Fan signs a copy of her book for Kid Reporter Emma Louise Huibregtse. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)

Nancy Yi Fan hasn't even started high school and she already has a career as an author! Nancy was in fifth grade when she wrote Swordbird, a fantasy novel in which heroic birds fight for what’s right. I recently had a chance to talk to the young author in New York City, when Al Roker's Book Club featured her book on the Today show.

After spending her early childhood in China, Nancy came to the United States at age 7. Since that time, she has lived in both China and the United States. Today, Nancy lives in Florida. “It’s fun being an international kid,” she said.According to Nancy, the idea for Swordbird came to her in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

“A few months before September 11, I was visiting New York City with my family," she said. "We had gone up to the World Trade Center’s observatory deck.”

On September 11, Nancy was in Montana, preparing to return to China. But she was haunted by the memory of visiting the World Trade center just months before. She wrote Swordbird to overcome her feelings about terrorism. Writing allowed Nancy to express her idea of peace to the world.

“You don’t have to care about what other people think when you’re writing,” she explained. “You just put down what you feel. You don’t have to worry about anything. It’s one of the most positive things you can do.”


How did Nancy write such a detailed story about birds that can talk, hold swords, and fight using martial arts? The young author explained that she found a lot of her inspiration in art.

“My favorite technique is drawing,” Nancy said. “I can look at a sketch of a bird and transfer that picture into words.” Birds have always fascinated Nancy. She even owns three!

Nancy used to watch the birds like a researcher, taking notes on how they moved and the noises they made. Every detail went into Swordbird.

Her story does not feature ordinary birds, though. These are birds that fight with swords! To help make the book's fight scenes more realistic, Nancy said she studied martial arts.

“I was writing a battling scene and I thought it didn’t sound very realistic," Nancy explained. "By that time, I was living back in China, so I had the convenience of having a sword master live near my home. I went up there for lessons on how to do martial arts with a sword. Pretty soon, I was learning moves that helped me with my writing.”

Nancy starts high school later this year. In addition to her writing, school, and martial arts, Nancy works as a reporter for a Chinese television station.

So what else can readers expect from Nancy?

“I’m working on Swordquest now," she said. "It’s a prequel to Swordbird. It’s about how Swordbird got his sword and his magnificent muscles.”

Nancy explained that the new book uses a mix of historical documents and diary entries to tell Swordbird's story.

Want to dive into the magical world created by Nancy Yi Fan? Swordbird is available in bookstores across the country.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Local Girl Gains Fame With Book

The Gainesville Sun July 12, 2007

Local Girl Gains Fame With Book by Ashley Hoffman

While many middle school students are enjoying a respite from analyzing story plots and characters, 13-year-old Alachua County author Nancy Yi Fan will appear on NBC's "Today" show on Friday to discuss her book "Swordbird".

"I'm really excited to be on the Today show," said Nancy, whose book was recently added to Al Roker's Al's Book Club For Kids reading list. "Years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of something like this."

HarperCollins published Nancy's book in the U.S. and U.K. in February. People's Literature Publishing House, one of the largest and oldest publishing houses in China, released a bilingual English-Chinese version of "Swordbird" in March that Nancy translated herself.

"I fell very glad Al Roker has chosen my book," she said. "I think that it's an encouragement to other kids who strive to write."

Al's Book Club, which launched in May, encourages summer reading among children 8 to 13 years old. The show invites guest authors to talk about their books and has an online forum where young readers can post their comments and read excerpts of te monthly selections.

Following her television appearance, Nancy will be back home in Florida for local book events.

"I think it's fantastic that somebody local is generating so much news and at such a young age," said Katherine Tarbox, Jonesberry Books owner, where Nancy will hold a book signing July 21.

In her book, Nancy used cardinals, blue jays and a tyrannical hawk to deliver her messages of freedom.

"Birds are very free. They have wings and they can fly all over the world," Nancy said. "I wanted my story to stress peace and freedom."

Nancy said she begins the writing process by mapping out the plot with illustrations that inspire her prose.

"After I draw something, I can describe everything better, she said. "The picture can form again in my mind and the minds of the readers."

It's back to the drawing board for Nancy who is currently sketching out her second book, which will be a prequel to "Swordbird".

"My second book is about what makes a hero," she said. "A hero is something a lot of kids nowadays ask themselves how to be. Everybody wants to aim high an achieve high, but behind every hero, there is a terrible struggle."


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Young author learned martial arts for her novel

Al's Book Club

Young author learned martial arts for her novel
Nancy Yi Fan on writing ‘Swordbird,’ her favorite authors and her next novel

Our third book for Al’s Book Club for Kids is “Swordbird,” which was written by Nancy Yi Fan when she was 12 years old. Born in China in 1993, she moved with her parents to the U.S. when she was seven years old. “Swordbird” pits a tyrannical hawk called Turnatt, who captures “slavebirds” to build his fortress, against the cardinals and blue jays. To overcome Turnatt, the blue jays and cardinals summon the Swordbird, the “mystical white bird, the son of the Great Spirit.” TODAY asked readers to write in questions for Nancy. In her answers, she discusses her inspiration for “Swordbird,” her favorite books, taking martial arts lessons to research her book, and her next novel, “Sword Quest,” a prequel to her first one. Read her responses:

Dear Nancy: I really like your book. How did you get that topic?— Paige, Billings, Mont.

Dear Paige: I love birds. I tried to learn as much as I could about them and their habits, appearance, song, and habitat. I looked for birds in my back yard or in the woods and on nature trails. This is how “Swordbird” got started. In school, I was learning about the American Revolution and terrorist attacks. One night, I had a dream about cardinals and blue jays fighting, and of a huge white magical bird. When I woke up, I started writing a story about them to express the importance of peace and freedom. It eventually turned into “Swordbird.”

Dear Nancy: Why did you make the birds be violent? Why did you make the birds talk?— Peyton, Fla.

Dear Peyton: The birds have swords because they are struggling to get their freedom back. I wrote these fighting scenes to show how terrible it is to take away someone’s freedom and the awful consequences of violence. I took martial arts classes to help me write better fighting scenes.
I thought it would be more interesting to have a story with talking birds. I feel as if my pet birds are always having conversations with each other and with me.

Dear Nancy: I have a cockatiel and his name is Stormbird. [My fourth-grade] class was so excited to see your book since Storm has been a class visitor. Lots of pictures were drawn of Storm being Swordbird! My question is will there be other books with Swordbird and the songbirds in the future? We loved your book and hope to see another one soon with the same characters.— Kris H., Gretna, Neb.

Dear Kris: I just finished writing my second book about birds. It’s called “Sword Quest,” a prequel to “Swordbird.” It’s about how Wind-voice found his magical sword. You might recognize Ewingerale the woodpecker from the Old Scripture excerpts. Many new characters fly their way into the story, including parrots!

Dear Nancy: Do you enjoy writing? What were your favorite books before you published “Swordbird”? When’s your birthday? I got to go now, thanks for reading this note, Nancy.— Nela H., Coulter, Iowa

Dear Nela: I love to write and I try to write every day. Some of my favorite books are “The Hero and the Crown” by Robin McKinley and “Night” by Elie Wiesel.
My birthday is coming up later this summer. It’s on August 26.

Dear Nancy: I was wondering what got you to do this. Do you have any tips on writing? Also your book is AWESOME.— Megan, Villa Hills, Ky.

Dear Megan: I love to write, just like the way some of you play sports or musical instruments. Writing is my passion. Here’s what I try to remember when I’m writing: a good story should have interesting characters, drama and action scenes and a message that readers will remember. You need to be passionate about your writing; you have to love to write and feel completely dedicated to your story for it to feel real.

Dear Nancy: My mom bought me “Swordbird,’ after I finished reading “Arianna Kelt and the Wizards of Skyhall,” which is also by a 12-year-old-writer. My question is has Nancy ever met King and other kid authors? Do they book tour together?— Lizzie B., Irving, Texas

Dear Lizzie: No, I’ve never met the author of Arianna Kelt or any other kid author. I think it would be really cool to go on a book tour with other kid authors.

Dear Nancy: Your book is very good. I was wondering if you’ve read “Arianna Kelt and the Wizards of Skyhall.” King wrote his book when he was 12 too. Did his book help inspire you to write?— Anonymous, Yelm, Wash.

Dear reader: I haven’t had a chance to read “Arianna Kelt and the Wizards of Skyhall” yet. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to write. I also love birds. That is what inspired me to write “Swordbird.” I noticed there were very few children’s books with birds as the main characters, so I decided to write a book for other bird lovers to read.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Today Show

Al's Book Club

Club's third choice: ‘Swordbird’

Twelve-year-old writes mystical tale about peace and freedom

HarperCollins Children's Books

The club’s fourth book is “Swordbird” written by Nancy Yi Fan when she was 12 years old. Fan was born in China in 1993. When she was seven years old, she moved with her parents to the U.S. A passion for birds was part of her inspiration to write “Swordbird.” After September 11, she was struggling with her feelings about terrorism and strife. Then one night, she had a vivid dream about birds at war. She decided to write “Swordbird” as a way to convey her message of peace and freedom. The book is illustrated by Mark Zug.

In this excerpt the cardinals and blue jays are celebrating the Bright Moon Festival with their friends of the Willowleaf Theatre. A band of crows and ravens from Turnatt’s army has just launched a surprise attack upon them, but Turnatt’s soldiers themselves are about to be surprised. Here’s the excerpt:

Noise and confusion broke out in the crowd. Some tried to escape; others turned to fight the intruders. A few decided neither to fight nor to run away but to do tricks; those were the birds of the Willowleaf Theater. At the time Dilby was still backstage, preparing for his next act, juggling with lighted torches. The loon measured distances with a careful eye and threw his torches toward thick mobs of crows and ravens. He chuckled when he heard the screams and yells.
When the arrows started to rain down, Lorpil, of course, was attacking several pies at the food table. Instantly an idea popped into his head.
“Pie their smelly faces!” he cried to the birds nearby.
“Pie them!” Lorpil threw a large raspberry pie with all his might at one of the ravens. The pastry hit the soldier’s face with a juicy squish, spattering gooey jam all over him and several nearby soldiers. Alexandra found spoons on one of the tables. She quickly taught nine birds how to sling nuts at the enemies. The soldiers howled and squawked in surprise as the nuts hit them.”
Kastin and Mayflower glanced at a gigantic container of hot soup and slowly exchanged mischievous glances. They had an idea, too.
“Here’s a way to help the cardinals and the blue jays, eh, Kassie?”
“Fine by me, May. Let’s tip that bean soup!”
The junco and the titmouse rushed to the steaming pot. They each grasped a handle and flew up, straining to lift the heavy container to a branch of a nearby tree. When a crowd of crows and ravens flew underneath, they tipped the hot liquid on the unsuspecting black birds. Now covered in the sticky bean soup, they plummeted and crashed to the ground.

Excerpted from “Swordbird” by Nancy Yi Fan. Copyright © 2007 Nancy Yi Fan. All rights reserved. Published by HarperCollins. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.
© 2007 MSNBC Interactive

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

SWORDBIRD named as one of the 100 best books for children in China in 2007 by the General Administration of Press and Publication in China

The General Adminstration of Press and Publication in China (5/28/2007)

SWORDBIRD was named as one of the 100 best books for children in China in 2007 by the General Administration of Press and Publication in China. Experts from famous universities, publishing houses and libraries evaluated submissions from SWORDBIRD named as one of the 100 best books for children in China in 2007 by the General Administration of Press and Publication in China. Experts from famous universities, publishing houses and libraries evaluated submissions from publishers all over China. Swordbird is ranked 3rd out of 30 novels and collections of short stories in the fiction and art genre and 1st in the original chapter books category.

School Library Journal Talks to 13-year-old Author, Nancy Yi Fan

School Library Journal

SLJ Talks to 13-year-old Author, Nancy Yi Fan

by Joan Oleck -- School Library Journal, 5/30/2007

It's not often that a 12-year-old e-mails a manuscript to HarperCollins and sees her book in print a year later. But that's exactly what happened for Nancy Yi Fan, 13, author of Swordbird (HarperCollins, 2007), the tale of how squabbling blue jays and cardinals, with help from a mystical white bird, unite to defeat a tyrannical hawk.

What's even more impressive is that Fan, who moved to the U.S. with her parents in 2001, has only spoken English for six years. (She also spent grades six and seven back in China.) SLJ spoke with the Florida-based eighth grader about her amazing achievement, how she's become an inspiration to other kids, and the "prequel" that's now in the works.

What's it like to be 13 and have a book at your age?

It feels like flying. Walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf gives me a really weird and funny feeling. Or sometimes I go to school, and a classmate will say, "Oh you're the one who wrote the book." Yet I feel kind of normal, too; it's something special, like a hobby. And I know I'm a young writer and have a long way to go. I'm working on my second book; it's called Sword Quest—it's a prequel to Swordbird. I think what I really enjoy—the greatest part of it—is I get to receive e-mails from other kids who tell me how I inspired them to write as well.

Where did your interest in birds come from?

I remember when I was in kindergarten, I used to run full-speed flapping my arms and jumping from low walls. I'm just amazed at their songs, their colors, their diversity.
I read that the story was inspired by the events of September 11.
The summer I finished second grade, I went to New York City for a vacation with my parents. I went to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. I remember it was a sunny day and it was windy on top. It was a startling contrast to what happened on 9/11; so many innocent people died. It made such a deep impression.
Then, in fifth grade I was reading about the Revolutionary War and still watching birds. So I had this weird dream in which cardinals and blue jays were wearing britches like in the Revolutionary War, and they were fighting because they'd been tricked. The dream was very vivid. I could hear the wings beating, and I also saw a great white magical bird with a sword. It's certainly not every day you see a bird with a sword! So when I woke up I wanted to turn it into a story. And because of 9/11 and the war, I wanted to express the importance of peace and freedom. Because birds are very peaceful creatures. When they defend territory, they usually solve problems by singing out their threats instead of fighting.

Is it true you sent this manuscript in to HarperCollins cold, without an agent?

I sent it to HarperCollins by e-mail. I sent it to the president and CEO of HarperCollins. I'm just a kid who believes hard work pays off. And the president and CEO was very surprised and passed it on to the president of the children's division and the children's book division and a nice lady told me they were going to look at it because they were interested. It was very, very surprising.

Did any adults help you along the way?

I thought I knew all about birds but then I discovered there are lots of species divided into subspecies. The autonomy of birds, their habits. So I went to my local library [the Onondaga County Public Library in Syracuse, NY] and the librarian was very helpful. She showed me lots of books, and after I checked them out, I loaded them onto a cart and pushed it out, and the librarian smiled. And other people thought it was very bizarre to see a kid pushing a cart full of books.

Do you have any messages for other kids trying to write?

I would tell them they should never give up writing. It's forever a blessing to be able to write. I would also tell them don't be afraid to try something and just go for it.

What are some of your hobbies?

One of my hobbies is martial arts, a branch [of martial arts] called swordplay. This connects to the swordplay in my book Swordbird. When I was writing Swordbird I found there were places in the battle scenes that could be a little smoother. That is when I went to China for two years. It's convenient in China to find a kung fu coach and you can find little light swords, and I asked the teacher if I could learn some moves. After a few weeks I could wave the sword about and knew the basics of swordplay.

What is Sword Quest about?

This is a story of how Swordbird and his friends went around the world to find a sword. Because [the book takes place] around the world there will be more bird species, not just North American species.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

News Report (translated from Chinese) from Xinhua News Agency's Journalist

Xinhua News Agency
The 13-year-old new immigrant young writer Nancy Yi Fan's debut novel SWORDBIRD appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List for seven weeks. Recently the Chinese-English version of SWORDBIRD was published by one of the leading publishers in China – People's Literature Publishing House. It has been flooded with positive reviews ever since. Some reviewers predicted that this novel could become one of the classics in the world of children’s literature .
Currently Nancy Yi Fan is working on the last two chapters of SWORD QUEST, a prequel to SWORDBIRD, which will be published by HarperCollins in early 2008. In addition, Nancy Yi Fan is going to write the third novel of the SWORDBIRD series and make it a trilogy.

- Reported by Li Bo, the journalist from Xinhua News Agency, China on May 3, 2007

Friday, May 4, 2007

Interview: Swordbird author working on prequel

People's Daily

Nancy Yi Fan, the 13-year-old author of Swordbird, a New York Times children's best-seller, was working on the fowl fable's prelude and planning a trilogy about the bird story.
In an email interview with Xinhua, Nancy said she was working on the last two chapters of the prequel "Sword Quest" and had signed a contract with HarperCollins to publish her second book in winter 2008.
"It's about how Wind-Voice gets his magical sword. He travels with Ewingerale, a woodpecker, Stormac, a myna warrior and Fleydur, an eagle musician, meeting other bird tribes as they seek clues that will lead them to the sword. They need to get to the sword before Maldeor, an archaeopteryx who has been corrupted by his vision of a perfect world," Nancy talked about the plot.
"In Swordbird, I was exploring the themes of peace and freedom and what happens when you lose your freedom. Now in Sword Quest, I' m examining what it means and what it takes to be a hero," said Nancy, adding that she would write a third novel about birds that HarperCollins will publish in winter 2009.
Nancy was born in Beijing
in 1993. She moved to the United States with her parents in 2000. In 2004, she started writing her first novel, Swordbird.
Asked about tips to learn a foreign language, Nancy said: "At first, it was hard to understand what people were saying even though I had learned some English when I was in China. Everyone spoke so quickly."
But for sure, Nancy learned English quickly. Besides attending the regular school classes, she went to an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. She credits her progress to her ESL teacher who introduced her to books and also her parents who took her to the library every weekend.
"I used flash cards to learn new vocabulary words. Once I learned new words, I tried to use them in my writing. I eventually learned that the best words aren't always the biggest words in your writing," Nancy said.
The Swordbird story came to Nancy in a dream after the 911 attacks. In the dream, the cardinals and blue jays must battle an evil hawk. After she woke up from the dream, she decided to write it down.
"When I began writing Swordbird, I thought I was writing a short story. But it got longer and longer and I realized I was writing a full-length book. The writing really improved my use of grammar, vocabulary and understanding of English idioms. It also helped me think about my writing in an organized manner. It really pushed me to be imaginative and creative."
The book is a big success. Some book reviewers believe Swordbird would probably have a space in the world's children literature in view of its style, content and structure.
Birds are Nancy's passion. In a tiny cage in the living-room are perched Ambergold, Cyan and Tiger, her budgerigars.
Nancy said: "Of the three, Tiger is the most spirited, being especially fond of chewing toothpicks... The slavebirds, the cardinals and the blue jays, and especially the Willowleaf Theater members in my book all show the ever cheerful spirit that my pets have."
For the eighth grader in Florida, it seems that she would not stop when talking about her birds. Observing birds first-hand at home and in the forest gave Nancy a lot of inspiration. Sometimes she went to the forest near her home, taking her binoculars and her laptop. She wrote as she watched and listened.
Nancy was not just a bird fancy but also a book worm.
"I read many, many types of books in Chinese and in English. I love reading award-winning books, especially the Newberys. Some of my favorite books are CHARLOTTE'S WEB and JULIE OF THE WOLVES. I also read popular books like Redwall and Harry Potter."
"A few years ago I read JANE EYRE and GONE WITH THE WIND. When I went back to China, I read the Four Classics: DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER, THE JOURNEY TO THE WEST, ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS and OUTLAWS OF THE MARSHLAND. I just finished reading the Chinese version of DON QUIXOTE."
Being a Chinese, Nancy was so proud that the 2008 summer Olympics will be held in Beijing, her hometown. She said she would love to attend them and help out as an interpreter for Chinese and international athletes.
Source: Xinhua

Friday, April 27, 2007

This Quill Is Mightier Than The Sword

This quill is mightier than the sword
By Chen Qing 2007-4-7
Shanghai Daily

A 13-year-old Chinese birdwatcher and book lover in Florida has written a fowl fable, "Swordbird," about between good and evil in an allegorical bird kingdom. Now this tale for birds and people is translated into Chinese in a bilingual edition, writes Chen Qing.

Before Harry Potter's last episode lands in China in July, young fantasy fiction fans have the chance to read "Swordbird," a bilingual fable written by a 13-year-old Chinese girl living in Florida in the United States."

It is dedicated to all who love peace and freedom," says Nancy Fan in the preface to the book about a very different blue jay and red cardinal joining forces to fight a wicked hawk with the help of Swordbird.

One doesn't usually associate ideas of "peace" and "freedom" with a young teen, but Fan says the story arose from her passion and imagination in her love for life and nature. She was on a book tour in Beijing and Shanghai this week.

A lot of research and knowledge about birds makes this a pleasant read for children and adults. Fan's English is quite polished and sophisticated for a 13-year-old.

Fan was born in China in 1993 and moved to the United States with her parents in 2000. Thus began her global life.

"I'm quite used to my life of a global person and I like every place, feeling comfortable and excited," Fan says.

She used to travel to the US Great Lakes region, where she could dig herself into the snow. She has also been to China's tropical Hainan Province with its beautiful beaches and hot weather, so she knows the extremes.

Apart from studying and traveling, reading is the most important thing in her life. "I read all sorts of things, Harry Potter, Newbury Prize-winning books and classics," says Fan. "When I was in the fourth grade, I tried to read Jane Eyre.

"It's unusual for a young person to love reading these days. But Fan is hooked. "Many friends around me are proud of not reading. They are the popular kids. But that's not for me.

"When Fan first went to the US, she watched a lot of cartoons and TV to help her with language. Then began her embrace of words and books.

"My first chapter book was 'Charlotte's Web,' my first long novel was 'Black Beauty'," Fan recalls enthusiastically. "I was so proud to be able to read a thick book like 'Black Beauty' in third grade."

Fan's curiosity and passion for life makes her a straight-A student, who can do everything the teacher asks. It also makes her an expert on birds. She is now living in Florida with her parents and three pet birds.

One of her favorite Chinese authors is Shen Shixi, famous for his animal exploration books, who lives in Yunnan Province.

Fan's mother says she has loved watching birds since childhood. "I think it is natural for a kid to be curious for the world around us," the mother says.

Fan shared her stories with her mother during the one and a half years she was writing "Swordbird."

"To see my daughter doing the things she likes makes me happy too," her mother says. "Every kid has the ability to tell a story, I believe. To write is a good thing. I support her dreams as long as she is a happy, healthy and lively person."

Fan's mother is affected by Fan's love for bird and nature as well. In the small town in Syracuse where the family used to live, they would see a bold hawk perching on the mailbox at the sidewalk, a woodpecker pecking the tree on the way back from school, ducks swimming in the pond. "Learning to appreciate nature around me with my daughter made me happier than ever," her mother says.

Learning from nature makes Fan happy. Writing and expressing herself with her pen also makes her a confident person.

"I was affected by the tragedy of 9/11. A month before the disaster of the World Trade Center in 2001, I was on vacation with my parents there. I felt like I was flying high on top of the building them."

At that time, she was in second grade. "I was affected and touched somehow, knowing so many innocent people died in the tragedy," she recalls.

Three years ago, Fan was old enough to begin writing herself. "It's like a miracle, to put my dreams into reality. Along the way, I add bits and pieces I would never have thought of," Fan says. "Like the evil hawk - I put a traditional costume on him, gave him one blind eye like a pirate, and bad breath."

The story started in her notebook. One day, she turned the page and there was nothing, it was blank. "I realized that the ocean comes from waterdrops, that I could write bit by bit and make a book. It was a challenge for me to write a book with chapters, different from the short stories I used to write."

She was excited by the idea and pursued it all the way until the book was published by Harper Collins. A Chinese-English bilingual edition was published by the People's Literature Publishing House this month.

Fan now is an honorary member of the Florida Audubon Society, a bird and environmental protection association. She adopted a bold eagle under her name in the local chapter.

"Birds have beautiful feathers and interesting voices; they wake you up in the morning; they are cheerful; they can fly in the sky," says Fan who has countless reasons to love birds. She has countless stories about them.

She still remembers the pair of robins that built a nest in the hanging flower basket on her balcony; she remembers their beautiful azure blue eggs. "I was touched by the cheerful little creatures and I made robin one of my main characters."

Fan bought a sword when she was traveling in Hainan in a kung fu store. She practiced to experience what it like to fight with a sword - and used the experience for her book - the birds actually fight with swords.

In the eyes of her peers, Fan is a strange kid, super smart. They are always amazed by the things she comes up with. All the common names of the birds in the book are her friends' names.

"They volunteered to be in my story," Fan says happily. "I was awfully calm sending my manuscript to all the publishers I found on Google. On the day Harper Collins decided to publish the book for me, I fed my pet birds extra bird feed. It was one the happiest days in my life."

This young writer is now working on "Sword Quest," the pre-story of "Swordbird."

Her dream is to teach English language and literature, to share her love for books with kids. She also contributes to environment and animal protection.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A book anybird could love

Saturday, April 21, 2007

11-yr-old writes million-dollar book inpired from 9/11 attacks

Zee News

11-yr-old writes million-dollar book inpired from 9/11 attacks

Beijing, Aug 26:

A fantasy novel about tribes of warring birds, written by an 11-year-old Chinese girl, inspired by the 9/11 terror strikes, is to be published worldwide in English. The young author, Nancy Yi Fan, who lives in Hainan, China's southern-most province, won the deal by simply emailing her manuscript to the Chief Executive of HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, at the publisher's New York office.Fan has since been hailed as a prodigy by her editors, who will use her book in a new attempt to establish the firm in China. Her story, Swordbird, is an epic allegory about the struggle for peace and will be printed in China in the new year, China Daily reported on Monday. Those who have read the novel describe it as the product of a mind as imaginative as some of the greatest names in children's writing. Fan wrote the novel in response to learning of the war on terror, and it is described as "an action-packed tale of birds at war," set in the once-peaceful Stone-Run Forest. Born in Beijing in 1993, Fan lived in New York with her parents from the age of seven, graduating "with excellence" from elementary school in 2004. When she was in sixth grade, at the age of 11, she was taught about terrorism and the events of 9/11. That night, Fan explains, she had a startling dream all about birds at war and the next day she started writing Swordbird as a way of trying to convey her worries about violence in the world. She now lives in China, on Hainan Island with her parents and their three pet birds. The girl, now 13, is a compulsive writer and reader who spends most of her time in the library, but loves bird-watching and martial arts. This summer HarperCollins announced it would be publishing a series of Chinese works overseas, as well as bringing out Swordbird in the United States, the UK and China. Bureau Report

Young author speaks about her book and inspiration

Gainesville Sun
Young author speaks about her book and inspiration
Campus correspondent
April 17. 2007 6:01AM

Nancy Yi Fan has written "Swordbird," a New York Times children's best-seller - which she translated on her own into Chinese. She's appeared on Martha Stewart's daytime TV show and toured in several cities, including Miami and Beijing.And Nancy is just 13 years old.Nancy, who lives in Alachua County and attends an area school, stood in front of University of Florida Professor Linda Lamme's International Children's Literature class at UF's Norman Hall on Monday night and spoke about her book and the strategies she used when translating her novel from English to Chinese.Her inspiration for "Swordbird" came from a dream about warring birds, said Nancy, who has a passion for birds.In her book, the cardinals and blue jays must battle an evil hawk and his band of crows and ravens. She said she wants her book to convey a message of peace.Because her novel deals with "timeless" themes "with no cultural boundaries," like peace, freedom, bravery and sacrifice, the translation seemed easier, she said.Feeling rusty on her Chinese, she decided to "practice" by translating her novel, which she hadn't yet submitted in English. Translating a play on words, like an instance in the book when she uses "bananas" to mean the actual fruit and also meaning wacky, proved difficult."Sadly, there never existed a play on words in Chinese using bananas or any other fruit for that matter," she said.Her solution was to use the Chinese word for honey, which sounds similar to the word for crazy.She explained that keeping the exact wording is not important, as long as the main story, which she referred to as the bones and wings, is there.After translating her book, Nancy began to search for publishers and her book landed on the desk of president and CEO of HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, who liked the book and published it. Nancy said Friedman gave her wings.Nancy also receives a great deal of support from her parents who videotape her speaking and snap pictures as often as they can.Her father advises parents to "let children grow naturally, and if they have interests, just support them."Nancy credits her love of books to a teacher who "drowned" her in books and encouraged her to draw.She told the class of future educators that it is important for teachers to show that they care.Her first English book was "Green Eggs and Ham," and her love grew from there.She said she proudly carried around, with sore wrists, her first large chapter book, "Black Beauty."Nancy said she aspires to be a writer, a translator and a teacher so that she can teach writing and English to Chinese people.Nancy was born in China, and moved to the United States with her parents when she was 7. She has lived in Alachua County since last fall.She is now working on a prequel, "Quest," which she said will be finished by next year. Despite her books being fantasy, she said she wants there to be a depth within them."I want my book to show that peace is wonderful. I hope that my age shows that nothing is impossible," she said.

Question Time with Nancy Yi Fan

First News (UK)
Question Time with Nancy Yi Fan (April 21, 2007)

The thirteen year old author of Swordbird, Nancy Yi Fan, shares the secrets of her success, reminding us all to have a goal... be determined... and go for it!

Can you tell us about your book "Swordbird"?
Swordbird is about how the cardinals and blue jays of Stone-Run Forest are tricked into becoming enemies by an evil hawk tyrant, Turnatt. He uses crows to enslave the forest birds. But then the heroic bird of peace, Swordbird comes to the rescue and freedom returns to the birds of the forest.
Can you tell us the story of how you got your book published?
I researched names and email addresses of publishers. Once my final draft of SWORDBIRD was finished, I took a deep breath and sent my manuscript. One of the recipients was President Jane Friedman, the CEO of Harper Collins. She sent my email and manuscript to the children's division at Harper Collins. It was an amazing stroke of good fortune.
How did it feel to see your book printed and in the shops?
I was teary and excited. I could scarcely believe it when I held the bound book in my hands for the first time. In fact, I felt as if I were flying in the sky. It was an incredible moment. I will never forget it.
What inspired you to write "Swordbird"?
In Social Studies class we were learning about the American Revolution and terrorist attacks. That night, I had a dream about birds that were fighting each other. When I woke up, I wanted to write about the birds in my dream, why they were fighting, and how they became friends again. I wanted to express the importance of peace and freedom. My story got longer and longer. Before I knew it, I was writing a book.
How has having your book published changed your life?
Well, it hasn't really changed anything. I still love to write and read and draw. However, I know that because of SWORDBIRD, I have lots of new opportunities and adventures waiting for me.
Are any of the characters in your books based on people you know?
Some of the characters are based on my family and friends, and my pet birds of course.
What would you like your readers to think and feel after they've read your book?
Well, I want by book to bring a message about the importance of peace and freedom in the world to readers. I thought that writing a novel about birds was the best way to convey this message. Birds have wings and can go anywhere they want to go. I think birds are the freest and happiest animals in the world. It would be utterly sad if birds lost their freedom to fly.
What advice would you give to young writers?
You should have a goal and be determined. And then, go for it.
What is your favourite subject at school and why?
My favourite subject in school is Language Arts, of course. I have always loved writing stories and poems and reading.
If you could pass a new law, what would it be?
I would pass a law that would help prevent the poaching of wild birds and help protect their habitat. Birds are such celestial creatures. We should preserve them so that new generations could be fascinated by their everlasting magic.

13-year-old author writes of freedom and peace

Bolingbrook Sun

13-year-old author writes of freedom and peace
February 1, 2007
By Mike Mitchell,
Staff Writer

A weekly column on appearances at Anderson's Bookshop in downtown Naperville.
By 11 years old, Nancy Yi Fan had written and published her first book - in her second language, English.
Yi Fan, now 13, will admit that she is an overachiever but insists that she is no different from any other student.

"I really didn't want to tell my classmates about it (the book) because I wanted to learn and be like everyone else in school," said Yi Fan, author of the new children's adventure book "Swordbird."
"At first I thought it was going to be a short story," said Yi Fan, who was born in China and moved to America at age 7.
"But I started to write about the issues of freedom and peace, and I realized that those cannot be expressed in a few words. It takes a long time, and a lot of pages."
Fan said she came up with the idea for the book after a dream about birds quarreling.
Her dream occurred shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In "Swordbird," a sinister hawk turns tribes of cardinals and bluejays against each other. The result is years of senseless war, which puts their forest in jeopardy.
Only a magical bird, known as a swordbird, can restore peace.
Yi Fan said a lot of people told her that her chances of being published weren't good and that she should have more realistic expectations.
Fortunately, children don't limit their expectations.
"They said a lot of stuff about agents ... but I believed in luck. I was stubborn. I searched for e-mail addresses of publishers and began to e-mail them," Yi Fan said.
"A few months later, one of the recipients of my (e-mails), Harper Collins, told me she really liked it.
Yi Fan's dreams had become a reality.
"They informed me that they were going to publish it. It was unbelievable," Yi Fan said. "After a few days, the seriousness just sank in. I realized what was going on. I was a little hyper and I began to celebrate.
"I have pet birds and they were chirping, so I gave them a bunch of birdfeed. ... We were all celebrating."

Young author's got the write stuff

The Naperville Sun
Young author's got the write stuff
Teen visits Kennedy to discuss prequel to her best-selling novel
February 6, 2007
By Tim Waldorf Staff Writer

Sure, the kids in Kennedy Junior High School's "Screaming Pens" writing club could be authors when they grow up.
Then again, they could be authors now, as evidenced by the success of 13-year-old novelist Nancy Yi Fan, who visited Kennedy on Monday to discuss her book, "Swordbird," with the Screaming Pens and other students who are fans of her work.
Writing, Nancy said, is now her hobby.
"You know how you play sports just for the playing?" she asked the students. "I guess I write for the writing."
She began writing "Swordbird," a fantasy novel about tribes of warring birds, when she was 11, and finished it a year later. When she completed her manuscript, she simply e-mailed it to Jane Friedman, the executive editor of Harper Collins. Now, "Swordbird" is a New York Times best seller, and Nancy is busy writing her second book, "Quest," the prequel to "Swordbird."
"Talking to you about this, I still can't believe it's a book," Nancy said of "Swordbird."
Birds have been a lifelong passion of Nancy's. The distinct personalities of her own, combined with dreams she'd had about others, inspired her to write "Swordbird," which tells how the cardinals and blue jays - the "woodbird" tribes of Stone-Run Forest - find themselves pitted against each other in a search for precious food supplies - some of which have mysteriously gone missing thanks to the evil hawk, Turnatt, whose capture and enslavement of the woodbirds can only be stopped by legendary heroic bird of peace - the Swordbird.
Nancy, who lived with her parents in China until she was 7, wrote the novel in response to learning of the war on terror.
"The moral of 'Swordbird' is (that) peace is wonderful, freedom is sacred," she said.
Kennedy students were impressed with her work. While Nancy may not be an experienced author, her youth is what worked for them.
"When a kid writes it, they have a direct connection," eighth-grader Safa Dadan said. "They know what it's like to be a kid."
Sixth-grader Alec Dickson agreed.
"She's a kid," he said. "She knows what gets us interested. So she can relate to us and get us hooked to it."
A handful of students that met Nancy already are working on books of their own. Her success is an inspiration to them, they said.
"I really like that she wrote it based on a dream, because that's kind of what I've been doing," Dadan said. "I can relate to that, and it's nice to know that, when you write about a dream, you can finish the story instead of abandoning it."
Contact Tim Waldorf at or 630-416-5270.

A young writer - age 13! - turns a vivid dream about warring woodland birds into a bestselling book that delivers a message of peace

St. Petersburg Times
A career takes flight
A young writer - age 13! - turns a vivid dream about warring woodland birds into a bestselling book that delivers a message of peace.
By TAYLOR GLOGOWSKI Published on March 12, 2007

Just weeks after its January release, Nancy Yi Fan's new book, Swordbird, is perched in the Top 10 on the New York Times bestsellers list for children's chapter books.
It's unusual for a first-time author. But what makes it even more of an accomplishment is that Nancy is just 13 years old.
Nancy, an eighth-grader who lives in Gainesville with her parents and three parakeets, moved from China at age 7. She says she immediately fell in love with America and its culture. To improve her English, she began going to the library. Nancy calls the library her hero. "All the books, every one of them, is like a door to a new world," she said.
Before she began writing Swordbird at age 10, Nancy had written many short stories and poems. She got the idea for Swordbird after she had a dream about woodland birds at war and quickly knew that it wasn't going to be just a short story or a poem. "When you write about peace and conflict, it takes many pages," she said.
At first, Nancy thought that Swordbird would be a story to share with family, friends and teachers. It wasn't until she was nearly done with the story that she began researching publishers and sending out manuscripts. In a little less than a week, Nancy got a reply from HarperCollins saying it would like to publish Swordbird.
Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins Publishing, liked the idea of Swordbird so much that she sent the manuscript to many people at the publishing house, including Phoebe Yeh, the editorial director of HarperCollins Children's Books. Yeh, who edited Swordbird, says she liked the story because "it was the kind of story line that kids in the middle grades will really enjoy."
Nancy "is a real writer," Yeh said, because of how dedicated she was to writing, more so than most kids her age. Nancy researched the habitats of the birds in her story to ensure that the setting was just right. She even took a swordplay class to help make the sword fights in the story more realistic. Nancy enjoyed those classes so much that she has continued them.
Besides reading and swordplay, Nancy also enjoys drawing animals and listening to bird songs.
Now the young author is at work on a Swordbird prequel. Quest is the working title and it tells the story of how the hero in Swordbird came to be.
Nancy hopes to continue writing, although, she says, she sometimes can't find the words to describe what it's like to write. But she does have words for what she hopes readers get out of Swordbird: that with courage, strength and hope, everyone can overcome evil, like the characters in her book.
Taylor Glogowski, 15, is in 10th grade at Land O'Lakes High School.

By Nancy Yi Fan and Mark Zug (illustrator)
HarperCollins Children's Books, 240 pages, $15.99

It all started with a vivid dream filled with woodland birds at war. That dream has become a novel, Swordbird.
Nancy Yi Fan began the story when she was 10. Now 13, Nancy is seeing her dream of war become a book conveying a message of peace.
In the book, two groups of birds - the Blue Jays and the Cardinals - are at war over stolen goods. Soon, the two groups discover it wasn't their old friends who were stealing from them after all, but a tyrant hawk named Turnatt. Turnatt is building his own fort, the Fortress Glooming, and is having it constructed by enslaved woodland birds.
The main character of the story, a slave bird named Miltin, is a small, fragile bird but his character is strong and he has amazing courage. Miltin and the other slave birds attempt to break free of Fortress Glooming and stop Turnatt from taking over Stone-Run Forest.
The only problem is the woodland birds are far outnumbered by Turnatt and his band of followers. Their only hope for peace is to call forth Swordbird, a majestic white bird who, with the power of his sword, has the ability to stop evil in its tracks and spread peace.
Will Miltin and his fellow woodland birds be able to call Swordbird in time?
The book is an amazing tale filled with adventure, courageous characters and a message the whole world needs to hear: "Peace is wonderful; freedom is sacred."
Nancy Yi Fan uses such imagination and vivid detail in the story that you begin to feel as if you're in the book. Swordbird is perfect for any tween with a good imagination and hopes for a more peaceful world.
Taylor Glogowski, Times X-Team